February 18th, 2016

RUSH Transcript: Donald Trump //CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall Columbia, SC

RUSH TRANSCRIPT, Mandatory credit: CNN 


COOPER: Welcome to the second night of the CNN Republican presidential town hall from Columbia, South Carolina. Welcome. We’ve heard now from Governor Kasich. We’ve heard from Governor Bush.

Everyone please welcome Donald Trump.


TRUMP: Hello, everybody.

COOPER: Welcome. How’s it going? Nice to see you.

TRUMP: Hello, Anderson. Nice to see you.

COOPER: Have a seat.

So, you’ve had quite a day. 

TRUMP: Oh, the pope is a wonderful guy.


COOPER: Let’s start right there.

TRUMP: A little surprise.

COOPER: How surprised were you by what the pope said? For those who don’t know, he said — part of what he said was “a person who thinks only about building walls wherever they may be, and not of building bridges is not Christian; this is not the Gospel.”

TRUMP: Well, I didn’t think it was a good thing for him to say, frankly. And he was talking about the border, and as you know, I’m very strong on border security, and we have to have a border in this country, and we certainly don’t have one right now. 

And, as you know, we’re talking about building a wall. We’re gonna build a wall, and Mexico’s gonna pay for the wall, and that’s the way it is. They — you know, we have a trade balance, and — and if you look at it — imbalance of about $58 billion with Mexico. 

And it’s really more than that, because we also subsidize, et cetera, et cetera, so they’re gonna pay for the wall. But somehow, the government of Mexico spoke with the Pope — I mean, they spent a lot of time with the Pope — and by the time he left, he made a statement — I don’t know…

COOPER: Wait, you think that the government of Mexico somehow got the Pope to say this? 

TRUMP: Absolutely. Well, I don’t think they said that way. But I think they probably talked about isn’t it terrible that Mr. Trump wants to have border security, et cetera, et cetera. 

And the Pope made the statement, and I think it was probably a little bit nicer statement than it was reported by you folks in the media, because after I read it, it was a little bit softer. 

But the bottom line is we’ve gotta have a border, we’ve gotta have security. We have tremendous illegal immigration in the country. (inaudible). 

COOPER: Well, I’ll just say, the Pope did go on to say, “this is — this is not the gospel. As far as what you have said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I’m not gonna get involved on that. 

“I say only that this man is not Christian, if he has said things like that. We must see if he’s said things in that way, and I will give him the benefit of the doubt.” 

TRUMP: And he also talked about having a wall is not Christian, and he’s got an awfully big wall at the Vatican, I will tell you. So it’s gonna be an interesting — how — how’s he… 

COOPER: But people do come and go through the Vatican, and it’s open to tour. TRUMP: And they’re gonna come and go through the wall. I mean — you know, but they’re gonna come and go legally. They’re gonna do it legally. And that’s what I want, and that’s what a lot of people want, obviously, because they agree with me. 

COOPER: But you — you’ve been in fights with a lot of people. But in — with the Pope — I mean, does it give you pause? 


TRUMP: I don’t like fighting with the Pope, actually. I don’t think this is a fight. I think he said something much softer than was originally reported by the media. I think that he heard one side of the story, which is probably by the Mexican government. 

He didn’t see the tremendous strain that — you know, the border’s causing us with respect to illegal immigration, with the drugs pouring across the border. 

I mean, I — I just won the New Hampshire primary, and I will tell you these are amazing people. The biggest single problem that I had, no matter where I went in New Hampshire, was heroin, and it’s pouring in. And it is just pouring into the area. 

And — you know, it’s sort of funny, because you — you look at New Hampshire as being this beautiful, idyllic place — magnificent. I loved it. I love the people there. I love the whole place. And it’s the last place you think that they’d really have a big drug problem. 

They have a massive drug problem, as you know. And it’s always the first subject, no matter what I do — it’s the first subject they want to talk about, and we’ve got to stop it. And it’s pouring in through the southern border, and we are going to stop it. 

COOPER: I just want to ask you one more question on the Pope, and then we’ll move on, because there’s a lot of other items in the news before we get to — to our voters, many of whom are undecided, as many people are in this state. 

TRUMP: Really? (inaudible) they’re undecided?

COOPER: You could — you’re doing well in the polls. You could pick up a couple votes tonight. 

TRUMP: Well, that’s a maybe, actually (ph). 

COOPER: Maybe. We’ll see. 

But you — you know, early on, you talked about forgiveness. And you were asked, in terms of your faith, whether you ask for forgiveness. At one point, I remember you said to me you tried not to do things wrong so that you don’t have to ask for forgiveness. 

TRUMP: True. COOPER: Was there a moment when you first heard the Pope had said something about you that you thought, “maybe I’m gonna have to ask for forgiveness? 

TRUMP: No. No, look. I… 


… I have a lot of respect for the Pope. I think he’s got a lot of personality. He’s very different. He’s a very different kind of a guy, and I think he’s doing a very good job. He’s — a lot of energy. 

But I would say that I think he was very much misinterpreted, and I also think he was given false information. If he would have heard our side — the side from people that live in the United States? 

COOPER: Would you like to meet with him and talk to him about it? 

TRUMP: I’ll do it any time he wants. I mean, I think it would be very interesting. No, I like him. I mean, I like him as a personality, I like what he represents and I certainly have great respect for the position. 

COOPER: I — I — as you know, we did a town hall last night. I talked to Marco Rubio, talked to Senator Cruz. You sent Senator Cruz a cease and desist letter to the campaign about an ad they’re running that features an old interview you did with Tim Russert back in the late ’90s…

TRUMP: Long time ago. 

COOPER: Yeah, you — when you were… 

TRUMP: Many, many years ago. 

COOPER: … when you were pro-choice. You are now — say your position has completely changed… 

TRUMP: I’m pro-life. 

COOPER: … you are pro-life, and you’re adamant about that. But… 

TRUMP: But that’s not the only thing. I mean, look — he has a problem with the truth. And even Marco Rubio — I guess today there was something about he was — you know, picture was manufactured, and it was not perfectly (ph)… 

COOPER: Photoshopped, right? 

TRUMP: Well, it was totally Photoshopped. I could see by just looking at it. In fact, they even made Marco a lot shorter than he is, if you look at it really. And I’m sure that’s probably the thing that bothered him the most. 


He was a hell of a lot — he was, like, very small. I mean, he’s not that small. Not too big, but he’s not so small. 


But — but I will tell you — I looked at that photo, I said immediately it was Photoshopped. But if you look what the he did — I’m talking about Cruz — to Ben Carson, where he said, “listen, he’s out of the race. Everybody, come vote for us, he’s out of the” — that was so dishonest. 

And then he did something else that you people never picked up on, and I think it was the worst of all. He did a voter violation notice. It looked like it’s right out of the IRS.

COOPER: Yeah, we talked about it. 

TRUMP: The official paper — it was so disgusting. And it’s basically you have a voter violation.

Now, they don’t have lawyers. These are people that were frightened when they got it. And it graded them. And you have an F, F, F, F. And essentially, it says if you vote for Ted Cruz, this violation is going to go away. And let me tell you something, people voted for him because of that. That was a fraudulent document. 

And he said things about me. For instance, I’m very strong on the Second Amendment. He said, “Donald Trump will leave the Second Amendment; he’s going to destroy the Second Amendment; you’re not going to have a Second Amendment.” There’s even one going up now in Nevada. He’s got something about land — that I’m for taking back the land.

I have nothing to do with it. He — he will make up stories. And you know, he holds up the Bible and then he lies. I think it’s very inappropriate. 

COOPER: But — but a cease-and-desist letter, I mean, you’re not going to sue him. 

TRUMP: Well, you don’t know that. But I like to send letters.


I have a lot of lawyers. I have wonderful lawyers. I like to send letters. But you know what? 


It’s good that people know. And I think it’s probably — it’s probably affected him because I know the CBS poll just came out a little while ago, New York Times-CBS, and I mean, my numbers are fantastic. I think it had an impact…

COOPER: But in that — in that particular commercial, he’s using an interview you did give in the late ’90s that doesn’t represent your current position.

TRUMP: But he’s not saying that. He’s saying, “I am.” And you take a look at the words he says, when he goes around talking to people, he uses that. That was — what? — 17 or 19 years ago. That was a long time ago. It was with Tim Russert, who by the way, was a great guy. We miss Tim Russert. I really liked him a lot. But it was with Tim Russert. And you’ve got explain my views now, too. You can’t say, “I am,” because he would say “I am.” And that’s what he was doing when he went out to audiences, and it’s just not true.

And as far as Second Amendment, I’m the strongest person running on the Second Amendment. And he would say — you know, he’d just make up stories. So it was inappropriate, Anderson, and we’ll see what happens. Who knows? I mean, I think he’s got other cases. I think the wonderful case is going to be whether or not, and I understand he got sued today actually. He’s going to be sued by a lot of people and he’s going to be sued by the Democrats if he ever got the nomination, which I don’t think he will. Honestly, I don’t think he will.

But if he ever got the — I don’t think — I don’t think he’s got a very good chance of getting it. But he was sued today on the fact that he was born in Canada. It’s a big problem. 


TRUMP: A problem for the party, for the Republican Party.

COOPER: You said now — cease and desist letter; as you say, you’ve got a lot of lawyers. You like to send out letters. You certainly attack…

TRUMP: (inaudible), but it’s something I will do on occasion.

COOPER: You certainly attack — your critics say, look, you’re a bully. How do you respond?

TRUMP: I’m not a bully. No, I’m not a bully at all. I don’t think I’m a bully at all. I built a great company. I filed as, you know, when I did my file, everyone said I wasn’t going to run, then I ran. Then I signed certain documents. Everyone said, you’ll never sign — you know, you’ll basically sign your life away — form A or whatever it’s called. I signed form A. It’s like, you know, they said, “Wow, he signed that.” 

Then they said, “Well, he’ll never put in his financials because maybe they’re not as good.” Turned out they’re much better than anybody ever even envisioned. And I built a great company.

You have to be — you have to have a certain personality to build — I have some of the greatest assets in the world, very low debt, tremendous cash flow. I mean, it’s a truly great company. 

COOPER: So as president, would you be sending cease and desist letters? Would you be…

TRUMP: Yeah, maybe to China.

No, I would be. I would be sending them to China to stop ripping us off. I would be sending them to other countries to stop ripping us off. I’d send them to Mexico. And when I say cease and desist, maybe it’s equivalent, OK? Maybe I do it with my mouth. (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: (inaudible) disagree with?

TRUMP: Of course. Look, our country is going to hell. We have a problem with China. We have a problem with Japan. We have a problem with Mexico both at the border and in trade. Carrier just announced they’re moving to — Carrier Air Conditioner — I buy them all the time. I’m not going to buy them anymore, by the way. I buy thousands. They’re moving to Mexico. I saw the clip. I saw the boss say, “We’re closing up; we’re moving to Mexico.” 

What do we get out of it? They’re moving to Mexico. Now, they’re going to make air conditioners, sell them to us, no tax, no nothing. We get nothing out of it. 

By the way, if we said, “Guess what? You’re going to have to pay a 35 percent tax to get them through the border.” They wouldn’t even move. 

COOPER: I want you to meet some of the voters. Sherry Burris (ph) is here. She’s Republican who says she’s currently undecided.

TRUMP: Oh, that’s too bad. 

COOPER: She’s got a question for you. Sherry?

QUESTION: Hi. Nice to meet you.

TRUMP: Thank you.

QUESTION: First, I wanted to start off saying that I’m impressed with your business sense, especially because I’m a commercial real estate broker.

TRUMP: Good. Then you know. You know how…


QUESTION: Yes. Maybe you can teach me some things.

But I also have a…

TRUMP: Where are you from?

QUESTION: I’m from Columbia, South Carolina.

I also have a master’s in public administration. I worked for 16 years in state government, all the way from working with the legislature to state and local government, trying to actually implement private sector policies. As you probably have already figured out, politics and government in general is a totally different animal.

TRUMP: Totally different.

QUESTION: Yes. Here’s my concern. In private sector, if you don’t like the deal, you can walk away. The president is not a person, it’s not a business, it’s an office that is powered to protect and serve the people of the United States. 

My biggest concern is how are you going to govern and get buy-in from people that you may totally disagree with without getting angry and without — refusing to look for common ground. I like your principles, I want a strong president. I want someone who is strong, tenacious, but I’m having some trouble getting past your self control. 


QUESTION: Can you help me with that? 

TRUMP: I appreciate the question, actually. It’s a great question. 

First of all, when it comes to — you know, some people say, oh, Trump is tough and I thought I did a great debate the other night. Time Magazine and everybody thought that I won. Drudge thought I won. You know, they do the polls after the debate. I thought I did a great debate, but some people thought I was too tough. 

I said, wait a minute. I have Jeb Bush and I have all these guys coming at me from 15 different angles, and you have to be tough and we have to be tough to protect our country. 

I have a great temperament. You don’t build a great company and especially a company with very little debt and all of the kinds of things that I have, and I have employees that have been with me for many, many years. I mean, long-term employees. They’re really great people and they’ve been with me for a long time. 

But we need a certain toughness. Look, we have ISIS chopping off people’s heads, Christians’ heads, everybody else’s heads, drowning people in cages. You’ve never seen — this is like medieval times. We need a certain toughness. 

I know that Hillary said I don’t like Donald trump’s tone. Tone? They’re chopping off the heads of people. This hasn’t happened since medieval times. We need certain toughness, and if we don’t have the toughness, we’re not going to end up with a country. You know, we’re going to let people come into this country, they’re going to be ISIS or ISIS-related and we’re going to have problems like you’ve never seen. 

You had a problem where you had two radicalized, probably she came in radical, radicalized him, the two — the married couple, the young couple. They killed 14 people. They killed 14 people. They killed people, and you understand what I’m talking about in California, they killed people that give them wedding parties. People that they knew very well. People that they worked with. People that they actually get along with. They killed them. There’s something going on. 

We need a certain toughness. We have weak people leading our country. 

COOPER: So as president, though, I mean, you’ve talked about this before, would your tone be different? Is there a presidential Trump? 

TRUMP: It would be — yeah. You and I have had this conversation. Yeah sure. Look, I went to the best school, I was a good student and all of this stuff. I mean, I’m a smart person. I — my uncle was one of the top people at MIT, he was a great professor at MIT. 

I — like, you know, Like — it’s a smart family, OK? I know — I can be more politically correct than anybody that you’ve ever interviewed. You’d probably say, boy, that was a boring interview. But I can be very — I can do whatever I want. 

I have Palm Beach, I have Maralago (ph). I deal with society. Society loves me, and I can act differently for different people. But we don’t have time to be totally politically correct in this country. Our country is in serious, serious trouble. 

Let me give you one example, though, about toughness. So we have the Democrats and the Republicans, corporate inversions. There’s trillions of dollars that cannot get back into this country. The Democrats agree it should come back in, the Republicans agree. This isn’t something like a health care or whatever that they don’t agree. This is something — trillions. They say 2.5 trillion, I say it’s more than $5 trillion. 

Carl Icahn endorsed me. He’s a great guy, he’s a tough guy. I would get him involved in things. We’ll get the smartest business leaders involved. But we have this 2.5 to $5 trillion outside of the country. The Republicans want it in, the Democrats want it in. They can’t make a deal. They can’t make a deal because there’s no leader. 

I would put these people in a room, and within 10 minutes, I’d have a deal. They all want it. This is something that — not where there’s a dispute, they all want it. There’s no leadership. Maybe they don’t work hard enough, I don’t know what it is. 

COOPER: There’s some — there’s some candidates that were saying, look, compromise is a dirty word. You have to stand on principles. Do you believe in compromise? 

TRUMP: No, I believe in compromise where I win, OK? 


COOPER: Can you always win in a compromise? 

TRUMP: Yes, can you win. I mean, look. Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan, they ran a pretty good ship and they did well and everybody was happy. The country wasn’t based on executive orders. Right now, Obama goes around signing executive orders. He can’t even get along with the Democrats, and he goes around signing all these executive orders. It’s a basic disaster. You can’t do it. 

But here’s the thing. Corporate inversion. We have companies, great companies leaving the United States. You know, it used to be they’d leave New York for Florida or they’d leave some place for Texas or some other place, right? But we have great companies leaving this country. The great drug companies are leaving, many of them, they’re going to Ireland. I mean, we’re having announcements where thousands and thousands of jobs and greats companies are leaving. We can’t let that happen. 

And they’re leaving for two reasons, lower taxes, and my plan — under my tax plan, the taxes are much, much lower for the middle class and also for corporations. But very importantly, they’re leaving to get back money. They are leaving to get the money that they can’t bring back into this country. 

COOPER: I want you to meet another voter. This is Todd Hicks. He’s got a question about health care. He says he is voting for you on Saturday. 

TRUMP: I like — I like right from the beginning. Thank you, Todd (ph). You’re doing the right thing.

QUESTION: Good evening, Mr. Trump. My question’s about health care and I’m a local health insurance agent over in Canvas (ph), South Carolina. And I’m not a big fan of Obamacare.

TRUMP: You’re right.

QUESTION: Yes. You’ve gone on record as stating that — many times that you’re — one of your first acts of duty when you’re elected president would be to abolish Obamacare.

TRUMP: Right. A hundred percent.

QUESTION: A hundred percent. I’ve actually sat and watched the stick shock from customers as they come in and they’ve seen the rising costs. What — I’m sorry. (Inaudible). What is your exact plan and please …


Question: Be specific as to what you would do to replace Obamacare?

TRUMP: OK. Great question. First of all, Obamacare as you know is a disaster. Your rates are going up 25, 35, 45, 55 percent. It’s going to fail in ’17 anyway unless as usual the Republicans bail them out. We know where the Democrats are coming from but the Republicans have been so weak.

The budget they passed four weeks ago is a — they call it the omnibus budget. It gives Obama everything he wanted. It gives him money to bring in people from Syria that we have no idea who they are or where they are, et cetera which is a disaster. We can’t afford to do that.

It gives money for illegal immigration, for letting people come in illegally into this country. The whole thing is a disaster and the Republicans passed it. With health care, we have repeal and replace Obamacare.

COOPER: What would you replace it with?

TRUMP: A health care savings accounts (sic) which are great. We would do that or we’re going to have and probably — and — you can say and/or — what I really like is the — I’m a self-funder. I’m not taking any money, OK? I’m not taking money from the insurance companies so I can do what’s right.

I can do what’s right for the people, I can do — and this is something that I think I’ve been given credit for. I don’t think I’ve been given enough credit because I have turned down hundreds of millions of dollars. I could take — if Jeb Bush raised $148 million put it in a fund it’s like throwing it out the window what he did with it.

I would have had 500 — I would have had $1 billion — I have people asking me, “please let me give you” — I’m doing it all myself. What happened is we have lines around each state. It makes it impossible for people to bid to — for insurance companies to bid within those states. The insurance company would have a monopoly — would rather have a monopoly on here or New York or on Iowa or on any other place than be able to bid all over that United States.

Because they make much more money that way. What we do and the insurance companies take care of the politicians. They’re giving the politicians — most of the guys that I’m running against are getting money from insurance companies and they’re getting money from — by the way other companies. Drug companies, pharmaceutical companies.

They give tremendous amounts of money to the people that I’m negotiating against, that I’m debating against, the people that are on the stage, the people that are in Congress, the Senators. So what I’m saying is this, we have to get rid of the lines. We have to create competition. When you do that you will have the best health care you’ve ever, ever had.

And it’ll be at a reasonable cost. They almost got rid of the lines when they were doing Obamacare but it didn’t happen. Because the insurance companies have too many of the Senators under control.

COOPER: Let me ask — just to follow-up …

TRUMP: You understand what I mean. There’s no competition.

COOPER: Did you get your answer — is that specific enough for you — do you …

QUESTION: Sounds fairly enough. Yes.

COOPER: I got one question about it. If Obamacare’s …

TRUMP: Thank you …

COOPER: Repealed and there’s no mandate for everybody to have insurance, what’s to — why would insurance company (sic) not have a pre-existing — insure somebody who has a pre-existing condition …

TRUMP: Well I like the mandate. OK. So here’s where I’m a little bit different. I don’t want people dying on the streets and I say this all the time. And I say this — look, I did five speeches, maybe six speeches today. We had a lot of rallies. We had of thousands and thousands of people. We get big crowds.

Every time I talk about this I get standing ovations. The Republican people, they’re wonderful people. They don’t want people dying on the streets. Sometimes they’ll say Donald Trump wants single payer because there’s a group of people — as good as these plans are and by the way your insurance will go way down, you’ll have better plans, you’ll get your own doctor which Obama lied. Remember this …

COOPER: Will people with pre-existing conditions be able to get insurance?

TRUMP: Yes. Obama lied when he said you’re going to keep your plan, you’re going to keep your doctor, you got to — it was a pure lie. And frankly, many Democrats went along only because they believed him. He lied 28 times he said it. Twenty-eight times. 

If that were in the private sector you’d be sued for fraud, OK? He lied to get the plan through. He got it through and it’s turned out to be a disaster. The wrong people are buying it, you know what’s happening. It’s dead. It’s going to — look, Obamacare is dead.

It’s going to be repealed, it’s going to be replaced. But I will say this, Anderson. If we don’t do something quickly you’re going to have a health care that you — like you’ve never seen before in this country.

Now, the new plan is good. It’s going to be inexpensive. It’s going to be much better for the people. But there’s going to a group of people at the bottom — people that haven’t done well. People that don’t have any money that won’t be able to be care of. 

TRUMP: We’re going to take care of them through maybe concepts of Medicare. We have hospitals that aren’t doing well, we have doctors that aren’t doing well. You cannot let people die on the street, OK? 

Now, some people would say, “that’s not a very Republican thing to say.” Every time I say this at a rally, or even today, I said it — once, it got a standing ovation. 

I said, you know, the problem is everybody thinks that you people, as Republicans, hate the concept of taking care of people that are really, really sick and are gonna die. 

That’s not single payer, by the way. That’s called heart. We gotta take care of people that can’t take care of themselves. But the plans will be much less expensive than Obamacare, they’ll be far better than Obamacare, you’ll get your doctor, you’ll get everything that you want to get. It’ll be unbelievable. 

But you’ve gotta get rid of the lines. You gotta have competition. Those people that are left — we’ve gotta help them live. And everybody likes it when I say it, and that includes Republicans. And it’s not single payer. 

I want to you meet Orrin Smith, he’s a Republican from Leesville. He says he’s undecided. Orrin, welcome. 

QUESTION: First of all, hello, good to see you again. 

TRUMP: Hello, Orrin. Nice to see you. 

QUESTION: I think it’s about five years ago I sat in your office and you said you were thinking about running for president then, and you didn’t run then. But man, are you running… 

TRUMP: I should have done it. We would have had Obama for four years instead of for eight years. Right? 

QUESTION: … right, right. Well, man, are you running now. 

TRUMP: I am running. I am running. 

QUESTION: Yes, and… 

TRUMP: Actually, this may be better timing for me if you (inaudible). QUESTION: … right, and you’ve made a lot of statements about a lot of issues. You’ve covered a lot of ground in… 

TRUMP: Right. 

QUESTION: … in a very short period of time. One statement you made, I’m really having trouble getting over, frankly… 


QUESTION: … and I wanted to ask you about it. 

TRUMP: Sure. 

QUESTION: As a matter of fact, when I was watching the debate, and you made this statement, I had to apologize to my children for the words that came out of my mouth when you said what you said. And that was — and I don’t want to put words in your mouth, so correct me if I’m wrong… 

TRUMP: Go ahead. Sure. 

QUESTION: … when you said that George W. Bush, which was our last Republican president, a man I respect greatly, a person that we really fought for when he was up against a lot of pressure — that — that he lied to get us in the war in Iraq. 

That — that — that stung me very deeply. 


QUESTION: I don’t — I don’t believe that. I’m just wondering, given some time passing — perhaps you’ve rethought that. Would you be willing to rethink that? 

TRUMP: Well, a lot of people agree with what I said. And I’m not talking about lying, I’m not talking about not lying. Nobody really knows why we went into Iraq. The Iraqis did not knock down — it was not Saddam Hussein that knocked down the World Trade Center, OK? That’s… 

QUESTION: What was — just — what you said was, “they lied, they said there were weapons of mass destruction, and there were none, and they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction.” 

TRUMP: Well, there are a lot of people that think that. There are a lot of people that think — look, bottom line, there were no weapons of mass destruction. They said, “there are weapons of mass destruction.” I was against the war when it started. 

QUESTION: So — so do you think — do you think the president of the United States, George W. Bush, lied to the American people? 

TRUMP: Well, look, I’m not going to get your vote, but that’s OK. Let me just (inaudible). QUESTION: I’m just giving you another shot at it. 

TRUMP: Let me — let me tell you something. I’ll tell you it very simply. It may have been the worst decision — going into Iraq may have been the worst decision anybody has made, any president has made in the history of this country. That’s how bad it is, OK? 

The migration that you see today, the destruction of Europe, with Angela Merkel allowing millions of people coming into Germany. I have people from Germany — they want to leave Germany. 

These are people, two years ago, that would — who’d do nothing but talk about how they love their country, Germany. They’re gonna leave Germany. Many, many people are leaving Germany. You’re gonna end up with big problems in Germany. 

You look at Sweden, the other day — you look at Brussels — I was in Brussels years ago. It was one of the most beautiful — now it’s like an armed camp. So crazy, what they’ve done. 

All of this is the — everything that’s happening started with stupidly going into the war in Iraq. Now, Iraq — we have — and people talk about me with the button — I’m the one that doesn’t want do this, OK? I’m the one, from 2002, 2003, said you shouldn’t be doing it. 

Here’s — here’s what happens. We have spent $2 trillion in Iraq — in fighting Iraq. Two trillion. Two trillion. Thousands of lives, right. We have wounded warriors, who I love, all over the place, who say the most incredible — these are braver than all of us in this room put together. 

I look at the attitude, and I work with them, and these are great people. We got nothing. We have nothing. We’re not even there — we can’t even make a phone call right now… 

COOPER: But to his question, do you believe… 

QUESTION: I’m trying to separate — yeah. 

TRUMP: Let me tell you, do I know? 

COOPER: Do you believe he lied, or do you… 


TRUMP: I can tell you this. I can — I don’t — whether he lied or not, he went into Iraq. It was a horrible decision, OK. And Iraq did not knock down the World Trade Center. 

Where did these people go when they got on the airplanes? You know where they went? Do you know where they went? They went — a lot of them went to Saudi Arabia, OK? They didn’t go back to Iraq. They went to Saudi Arabia. 

Now, there are sealed documents right now that nobody wants to allow to be opened that talk very much about this subject. I’d like to see what it says. 

I will say this — Bush felt very — and Saddam Hussein overplayed his hand, because he was — you know, he — senior Bush did the right thing. He knocked the heck out of him, and then he pulled back, OK? He didn’t get into the quagmire. And that was OK to do. 

The problem is Saddam Hussein said, “I drove them back. I drove the Americans back.” He really overplayed his hand. And frankly, I think the son, being loyal to the father — I think he really wanted to go into Iraq, even if it wasn’t the right thing to do. 

TRUMP: He went into Iraq. He started something that destroyed the Middle East. And I said, “Don’t go in because you’re going to ruin the balance in the Middle East; you’re going to have a total imbalance; you’re going to have Iran taking over Iraq.” Everything I said turned out to be true.

Iran is now taking over Iraq. So — and they wanted to do it for years and years years. They’re going to walk in.

So, not only do we make a horrible, horrible deal where we’re giving Iran $150 billion. We got nothing for it. We get our prisoners back. They should have been given back to us three years ago, four years ago. We shouldn’t have even started negotiating until we got our prisoners back. And we would have had it that way.

But here’s the problem. So, we make all bad deals. The war in Iraq started the whole destabilization of the Middle East. It started ISIS. It started Libya. It started Syria. That was one of the worst decisions ever made by any government at any time. 

In all fairness, Bush made the decision. Just one thing. And Barack Obama — Barack Obama, as bad as he is, and he’s bad — but he got us out the wrong way. He should have left people there. And he should have done it differently. And he shouldn’t have said, “We’re getting out at a specific time.”

He gave a specific date, as you know, to get out. So bad. So bad.

COOPER: Just to his question — one more chance. Either — you believe he either lied or did not lie. Are you willing to say which?

TRUMP: I don’t know what he did. I just know it was a terrible mistake. 

COOPER: So, was it a mistake for you to say in that debate that you thought he lied?

TRUMP: I’d have to see the exact words. Look, I don’t know. I would probably say that something was going on. I don’t know why he went in. I don’t know why he went in. Because honestly, there was no reason to go in. They didn’t knock down the World Trade Center. It wasn’t Iraq that knocked it down. 

COOPER: You would not say again that George W. Bush lied.

TRUMP: I don’t know. I can’t tell you. I’d have to look at some documents.

COOPER: OK. I want you to meet Craig Caldwell (ph). He’s a small business owner. He says he’s undecided. Craig?

QUESTION: Thank you, Anderson.

Mr. Trump?


QUESTION: You’re considered the political outsider in this race. A lot of people attribute your overall success so far to that. If you go on to win this nomination and are elected in November, a Trump administration cabinet would consist of people outside of politics. If so, who would you — can you give us some examples of who you would consider and for what post they would…

COOPER: You talked about Carl Icahn already.

TRUMP: Yeah, but I don’t necessarily — you know, Carl’s a very successful businessman. What I’d really love Carl to do is check out how are we doing in trade with China, pal.

COOPER: You want him to negotiate.

TRUMP: I’d like him negotiating.

COOPER: Have you thought about…

TRUMP: I have other friends. I have some of the greatest businessmen in the world. They’re all calling me now because they say, “Wow, this could happen.” And they’re all calling me.

We have the greatest business people in the world in this country. We don’t use them. We use political hacks to negotiate with China, with Japan. We have Caroline Kennedy negotiating car deals and trade deals with — and she doesn’t even know. Caroline Kennedy got to be the ambassador of Japan.

COOPER: Would you want all Republicans in your cabinet? Or would you want a cabinet of…

TRUMP: No, not necessarily. I want the best people. Honestly, I want the greatest negotiators. We can’t lose $505 billion next year with China.

COOPER: Do you find it valuable as a leader in your business world to have people with very different opinions give you different thoughts?

TRUMP: I like that. Yeah, and then you make the decision. I think I’m very open to that. I like that. I’ve always liked that. I’m fine with it. I want the most talented people. We have the greatest negotiators in the world. I told you before. We have a trade deficit with Mexico — $58 billion. You know, when they say you won’t build a wall. The wall is going to cost $12 billion. It’s peanuts compared to what we lose. OK?

That’s why Mexico is going to pay. It was already…


COOPER: They say they’re not going to pay.

TRUMP: I know they do. And it was Calderon the other day, who is the past president, but Calderon the other day said, “We will not pay.” So the newspapers called me up. They said, “He said — Calderon said we will not pay. What does that mean? What are you going to say?” I said, “The wall just got 10 feet higher.”


COOPER: We’ve got to take a break. Back in a minute with more questions for Donald Trump.

COOPER: Welcome back. We’re here at the campus of the University of South Carolina here in Columbia. Less than two days to go until Primary Day. Donald Trump taking questions from the voters right now. Thanks very much for being here. 

TRUMP: Thank you. 

COOPER: Again, continuing. I literally was just handed this. There’s a report now out tonight on Buzzfeed that includes — I have not heard it — includes an audio clip of what appears to be you on Howard Stern talking on the radio on September 11th, 2002. He asked you are you for invading Iraq? You said yeah, I guess so. You know, I wish the first time it was done correctly. 

Is that accurate? Do you remember saying that? 

TRUMP: No. But, I mean, I could — I could have said that. Nobody asked me — I wasn’t a politician. It was probably the first time anybody asked me that question. 

COOPER: But does that…

TRUMP: But by the time the war started — that was quite a bit before the war started. 

COOPER: Yeah, this was 2002. 

TRUMP: By the time the war started, I was against the war. And there are articles — I mean, there are headlines in 2003, 2004 that I was totally against the war. And actually, a couple of people in your world in terms of the pundits, said, you know, there’ definite proof in 2003, 2004 Trump was against it. 

COOPER: But 2004, the Reuters article, which you pointed to a lot, and there were a couple of comments you made, I think, at a Vanity Fair party and one other comment. Those were, I think, a couple of weeks after the war began. 

TRUMP: Which is OK. A lot of people said — you know, it was so early that even if it was a little bit after the war, I mean, he was totally against the war. I was very much against it. That was probably the first time I was ever even asked about the war. Howard, who’s a great guy, by the way. A lot of people don’t understand that. But he is — 

COOPER: He’s a great interviewer. 

TRUMP: He’s a great — he’s a great interview. He’s a very talented guy and a good. But that was probably the first time — I don’t remember that, but it was probably the first time I was asked about it. 

COOPER: OK. I haven’t heard it, but you may have said that. 

TRUMP: And, you know, when you’re in — when you’re in the private sector — yeah, I may have. When you’re in the private sector, you know, you get asked things and, you know, you’re not a politician and probably the first time I was asked. By the time the war started, I was against it. And shortly thereafter, I was really against it. 

COOPER: I want you to meet another voter. Ryan Parsons is his name. He’s an aspiring entrepreneur here in South Carolina. 

TRUMP: Hi Ryan. 

COOPER: He’s a registered Republican. Right now, he’s undecided. Welcome.

QUESTION: Hey Mr. Trump. It’s an honor to speak to you.

TRUMP: Thank you. Me too. 

QUESTION: Thanks for coming to Columbia. My girlfriend who’s a lobbyist here in Columbia advised me not to say this, but in the spirit of you being here, I’m going to say it anyway.

QUESTION: Muhammad Ali once said that his greatest fault was that he didn’t know how great he truly was. So my question to you is: What do you think your greatest fault is? And how do you overcome that? Or how have you overcome that? And how will you continue to do so in order to win the general election?

TRUMP: Well, I don’t know that it has to do with the general election. I have found this process amazingly interesting. Because, you know, I’ve never done this. I’ve been doing this for seven months. And I’ve been giving credit. We’re doing really nicely. And it’s been very interesting for me.

But I will tell you, I’ve said a couple of times, one of my faults is I will put up with people and deception, even though I know they’re deceiving, too long. And — but when I get — when I, you know, get to it, I’m too tough. In other words, too long, and then instead of just sort of forgetting about it, and especially things that don’t matter that much, I never forget. I don’t forget.

I don’t think you forget either, to be honest with you, but I don’t forget. And, you know, my wife will tell me sometimes, “You’re — sometimes you’ll go too long, but then when it gets bad, it’s like…

COOPER: So you hold onto stuff.

TRUMP: I do. I hold onto stuff. And I’d rather not hold onto stuff. But if I’ve been deceived in anyway, or if something happens, I really don’t forget. Sometimes you’re better off forgetting. And in other cases, it’s not such a bad habit. You know, you learn.

Because usually with people, and I talk a lot about success. Friends of mine ask me, would you speak about success or whatever? And a lot of people pay me a lot of money to do it, and we give it to charity and we have a lot of fun with it.

But a lot of people ask me that. And you don’t want to necessarily — you want to remember when people deceive you once, usually that same person will do it again, because that’s a trait that they have. So, it’s not so bad, but I would say I hold on too long and I never forget. And sometimes forgetting is not a bad thing.

I hope that makes sense. COOPER: This is Michael Letz (ph). He’s been a Republican activist for over 30 years. He is also undecided, like many people in the state. 


QUESTION: Good evening, Mr. Trump. Welcome to the capital of southern hospitality.

TRUMP: Thank you.

QUESTION: Tea is sweet, but it looked like the questions tonight have been even sweeter. 

I’d like to have you address a particular issue that I’ve not seen any of our Republican candidates address to this point. In the numerous incidents recently of police-involved shootings, and the questions that have I’ve been led to raise about racism and the racial tensions that have been caused, I’d like to ask what your administration would do to be able to for future situations, make sure that our law enforcement and our first responders have the kind of support that they feel like they need? Because quite frankly, Mr. Trump, first responders’ lives truly matter.

TRUMP: You’re right. I am a big, big supporter of the police. I think the police are being treated horribly in this country. And certainly, you have some bad acts and you have bad mistakes made on occasion. It’s a tiny fraction compared to the great work that they do.

So I am without question a huge supporter of the police. We wouldn’t be sitting here right now. We wouldn’t have a safe society, really. You look at what’s happening around the world. We wouldn’t have as safe society. So I can tell you right now, I — I assume you are also, you’re with me on this. I am a tremendous supporter of the police. And I think they are mistreated and misunderstood. And I think we should give them much more credit than we have given them.

COOPER: I want to ask you at the end of these, we like to sort of just ask a couple of personal questions, just to kind of let viewers get to know you in a different way.

Last night, as you know, we did a town hall. Senator Cruz, I talked to him. He said — he was claiming that you had suggested your sister as a Supreme Court justice. You have not actually done that.

TRUMP: I have not.

COOPER: You had said she would be great and she would be — she would be fantastic. 

TRUMP: She’s very smart. 

COOPER: But you’d have to rule that out because she was your sister. What he said was — he says it’s great to support your sister; that’s a nice thing. But if you’re actually suggesting someone for the Supreme Court, his sister is a radical pro-abortion judge. She struck down New Jersey’s ban on partial-birth abortion as irrational. That’s an extreme position. That’s who he suggested as a Supreme Court justice last year. 

What’s your reaction?

TRUMP: So, my sister is a brilliant woman who was always a fabulous student, very, very smart. She was appointed by Ronald Reagan. He said appointed by Bill Clinton. She was elevated to the Court of Appeals, a very high position, right under the Supreme Court, as you know.

She was elevated to the Court of Appeals by Clinton; appointed by Reagan, elevated — and the reason she was elevated, she was an outstanding intellect and an outstanding judge. I don’t even know what her views are on abortion. I really don’t. She is certainly not a radical anything, because that’s not her thing. But this is the kind of thing he said “radical this, this, this on abortion.” 

She’s not radical. She may have made a decision one way or the other. I never asked her. I wouldn’t ask her. She wouldn’t want to tell me. I know I got a very big call from a very great reporter actually at the New York Times. And they wanted to do a major piece on my sister. And they called me. Could I possibly get her to do the piece? I called her. She said, “No, no, I don’t do that; I don’t want a piece; I don’t want anything to do with it; I don’t want any…”

TRUMP: And they did the piece anyway. It was a very nice piece on her — but she refused to partake. She has no interest in that. In fact, I said, “are you sure my — you’re my sister?” 


The reporter actually said, “could this be possible?”

COOPER: A Trump who doesn’t like publicity? I don’t know. 

TRUMP: I don’t like — you know, you wouldn’t believe it. I get a lot of publicity. I don’t necessarily like it. 


COOPER: Come on, wait — wait a minute. 

TRUMP: No, it’s true. 

COOPER: I gotta call you on that. What? 

TRUMP: It’s true. 

COOPER: What do you mean? 

TRUMP: You know what, it’s true. I don’t love that. I can’t stand — look, for the most part I find the press is extremely dishonest, OK? Very dishonest. I find the political press to be unbelievably dishonest. 

And 25 percent are great. Of course, you’re in that category. He did a great interview with me two weeks ago that I really liked. I thought it was really a great interview because, based on an article a little bit — in the Wall Street Journal, by Monica, who’s a terrific person. 

But — but my sister is a great intellect. She is a terrific person. She’s not radical anything. I don’t know what she did, having to do with — with abortion. But she’s a great judge. 

I would have such a conflict of interest — and I think you probably went back and you checked. I do say sometimes — and I joke. I say, “my sister should be on the” (inaudible). You know, I’m laughing and having fun. But I would never do a thing like that… 

COOPER: Right. In fact… TRUMP: … because it’s a conflict of interest. 

COOPER: … and just — I want to read the quote, just so we — we’re — have it on the record. You said, “I think she’d be phenomenal. I think she’d be one of the best, but frankly, we’d have to rule that out.” So you never actually were proposing it (ph). So just for the record.

TRUMP: Yeah. It’s a — and I don’t think she’d want to do it either. 

COOPER: So last night after the town hall, I went to celebrate at McDonald’s. I had a number one meal, which is my favorite meal. 


COOPER: I understand you like — you were a big fast-food guy as well — that you actually bring fast food to your plane sometimes. 

TRUMP: I do, sometimes. And — and frankly… 

COOPER: What — what do you eat — when — when you — when you roll up at a McDonald’s, what does — what does Donald trump order? 


A fish delight (ph), sometimes, right? The — the Big Macs are great. The quarter pounder with cheese. I mean, I — it’s great stuff. 

COOPER: Do people at the windows be like, “what?” 

TRUMP: You know, I’m a big — I’m a person — they can’t sort of believe it. But I’m a person that — I like cleanliness, I like clean. And the one thing about the big franchises — you have to have a certain — you know, because of the importance. 

One bad hamburger, you can destroy McDonald’s. One bad hamburger, you take Wendy’s and all these other places, and they’re out of business. You can’t do it. I mean, I don’t want to mention the name of the firm, but you see what a certain firm is going through right now. I mean — I don’t know. Do they make it? Do they not make it? 

So I’m a very — I’m a very clean person. I like cleanliness, and I think you’re better off going there than, maybe, someplace that you have no idea where the food’s coming from. It’s a certain standard. 

But I think the food’s good. And I eat it very carefully. You know, I do as good as — as well as I can. But I think all of those places — Burger King, McDonald’s, I can — I can live with them. I had — the other night, I had Kentucky Fried Chicken. Not the worst thing in the world. 

(LAUGHTER) Not the worst thing in the world. 

COOPER: What’s your favorite kind of music? 

TRUMP: Well, I think Elton John is great, I think the Stones are great. The Beatles, I love. Michael Jackson was a — actually a very good friend of mine. I knew Michael Jackson very well. Lived in Trump Tower for a long period of time, would go down to Mar-a-Lago. 

He actually got married — you know, Lisa Marie Presley — the whole big deal at Mar-a-Lago — they were in the tower. And I will tell you, he was up there one week with her, and he never came down, so I don’t know what was going on, but they got along. 


You know, a lot of people say, “they didn’t really” — they were up there for a week. They never, ever came — I said, “where the hell is Michael? I’ve — nobody’s seen” — but — but he was a very talented guy. One of the truly most talented people. 

I knew him very well. I knew the real story of Michael Jackson. You know, When he died, I would watch people get on — I don’t — I don’t want to mention names, but people that you know very well and people that you interview — and they would talk about Michael Jackson. 

They didn’t even know him. I mean, very few people got to know Michael Jackson. But he was an unbelievably talented guy. He lost his confidence. And — he lost tremendous confidence because of, honestly, bad, bad, bad surgery. 

He had the worst — he had people that did numbers on him that were just unbelievable — facially, and — you know, the plastic surgeons. But Michael was an unbelievable talent who actually lost his confidence. And — you know, believe it or not, when you lose your confidence in something, you can even lose your talent. 

COOPER: You’ve talked about working hard as president. You don’t sleep a lot. How much — how many hours a night do you sleep? And how much television news do you watch? Because I get the sense — 

TRUMP: I do like it. I watch… 


COOPER: You seem to know everything that’s being said about you. 

TRUMP: I — I actually get criticized for it. But I do watch it. I watch you a lot, and I watch other people. And you learn. I mean, especially with what I’m doing. 

Somebody said, you watch, you get your generals through television. Well, I don’t. I read a lot. OK? I love to read. But, you know, when I see you interviewing a general, or a — some security adviser or somebody, I mean, you learn a lot from that. COOPER: How much do you sleep? 

TRUMP: And — and by the way — about three to four hours a night. 

COOPER: That’s all you need? 

TRUMP: It’s all I need, luckily. I mean… 

COOPER: Have you always been like that? 

TRUMP: … yeah, pretty much. I’ll tell you what — I honestly believe this — I love what I do. I love my business, I love — The Apprentice was such a tremendous success. NBC would have done anything to renew it with me. I mean, anything. 

Steve Burke came up to my office, the head of Comcast, and he said, “please, do it, do it, do it.” I said, “I’m gonna run for” — you can’t run for president and have a show. It’s — you know, the equal time provisions, et cetera, et cetera. 

TRUMP: I said no, Steve, I’m not going to do it. They couldn’t believe it, because they really didn’t believe — nobody believed I was going to run, you know. 

My wife actually said if you run, you will win. But you have to actually run. You can’t just say you’re going to run because you won’t do well. You know, the polls were — the original polls, nobody believed I was going to run. Even when they say if he runs, and they wouldn’t even do polls. 

But she said if you run, you’ll win. And Steve Burke came up to the office, he said, I really — you know, they wanted to renew The Apprentice because it was doing phenomenally well. Even after — can you believe it — 14 seasons, 14 seasons and The Apprentice still did well. But I’m not doing — you know, I have that with Mark Burnett and we’re using Arnold Schwarzenegger, and hopefully, Arnold’s going to do. Is Arnold going to do well? What do you think? 

COOPER: A lot of people — 

TRUMP: Will he be Trump? 

COOPER: Will he beat you? Are you concerned about that? 

TRUMP: He’s no Trump, right? 

COOPER: All right. Are you — what kind of a — what kind of a parent are you? Because, I mean, your kids — a lot of people speak glowingly about your kids, they speak glowingly about you. Were you a tough dad, and are you different as a grandfather? 

TRUMP: So I get credit for my children. My children are very good children. They were smart, they went to good schools, they did well. Ivanka everybody knows, and then Don and Eric and then I have two younger — Tiffany, who’s a terrific young woman, and she — she’s just graduated from Penn and did mostly A’s. And Baron is doing really good. 

So I have five children. But one thing I think I was really, really a good parent because I put my children above everything, above the business, above everything. And Ivanka speaks to it very well and so do the others. But when people come up and they say why, I would say from the time — because I had so much — I had so much experience with alcohol because I have a brother, who is a phenomenal guy, the best looking guy you’ve ever seen, but he became — he started drinking and I saw from a young age, he was quite a bit older than me. COOPER: He was an airline pilot. 

TRUMP: My brother Fred. He was — he was a very talented flyer of planes, it was — I mean, great pilots would go to him to study. I mean, it was a real ability he had. But the alcohol was — I mean, it taught me a tremendous lesson, and he taught me a tremendous — he was really very — 

COOPER: And that’s why you don’t drink. 

TRUMP: He said no — don’t you ever smoke. He was (inaudible) he said don’t you ever smoke, don’t you ever drink. And I’ve never had a drink. You know, I’ve never had a drink and I’ve never had a cigarette. Those are the good things, I don’t want to tell you the bad things. There are plenty of bad things. But I never had a drink, I never had — you know, I never had — 

COOPER: You were never tempted to — 

TRUMP: No, I just — I mean, I never liked the taste. I’ve had friends — when I want to the Wharton School of Finance, I’ve had friends that didn’t like scotch, they hated the taste. And one in particular, became pretty successful, but ultimately alcohol destroyed him. He would be with me — we’re like 18 or 19 years old, and he was trying to develop a taste for scotch, he ultimately became an alcoholic. He became quite successful, lost the success because of alcohol. 

I’ve seen what it does to people, it’s a horror show. And the one thing I can say is if you don’t drink, there’s no temptation. But people come up to me and they say could you see my children? You know, because my children are doing a good job. You know, famous last words. Where’s wood? Is that wood? Yes. OK, I’m going to knock on wood, OK, because who knows. But my children are doing a good job and they’re solid. 

But I would tell them from a very young age, no drugs, no alcohol, no cigarettes. I’d say this so — over and over. In fact, Ivanka sometimes would be like Dad, you’re driving me crazy. You know, she was like 4 years old, she didn’t even know what it was. No drugs, no alcohol, no cigarettes. 

And I just put it into them because I’ve seen people that are really brilliant, people that you know, people — the top people in industry, they have children, they’re very smart children, they have all the aptitude in the world but they get hooked on drugs, they get hooked on alcohol and they — alcohol believe it or not is almost harder than drugs, but it’s harder to get away from it. But they get hooked on alcohol, they get hooked on drugs and as smart as they are, they never make it. 

COOPER: So what is one thing you wish you didn’t do? Like, what’s one — advice or — I mean, are you watching TV late at night? What do you — like — 

TRUMP: Well, I mean, look. I mean — a vice. I work very hard. Maybe I work too hard. I have — I had two very, you know, wonderful women frankly, that I am a worker. I love to work. I don’t consider myself like a workaholic. I’m a workaholic, but I don’t consider that a bad thing. And I think probably I would have had — I wouldn’t have — I have a very good marriage now, Melania is fantastic. 

But I had two women that I never blamed because I worked so hard that my job came first. Never came first with my children. I always said I was a better — I would say this. I was a better father than I was a husband. 

But I worked very, very hard and I love doing it, and you know what I’m very happy about, I have tens of thousands of employees. I’ve put so many — I’ve had thousands and thousands of employees and that takes care of health care, it takes care of education, takes care of so many things. 

So not that I’d change anything, but it I did a little bit less, probably wouldn’t have had two marriages that didn’t work out. 

Donald trump, thank you very much. 

TRUMP: Thank you very much. 

COOPER: Appreciate it. Thank you. 

And that’s all the time we have. Our thanks to Donald Trump, to Governor Kasich and Bush. I want to thank everybody here in the audience who asked question. A special thanks to the voters, thanks to all the viewers at home and everybody here in Columbia for their help and hospitality. 

Next Tuesday, I hope you join us. New Day’s Chris Cuomo is going to be moderating a South Carolina Democratic town hall. Our coverage continues with Don Lemon right after this.